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Monthly 3D Poll

2011-06-17

B Vitamins Reduce Homocysteine, Lipoprotein(a), and Heart Attack Risk

I got a refund on this burger since
they forgot the bottom half of
the bun. Did they really think
I just wanted the meat?
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced by the body, usually as a byproduct of consuming meat. Elevated levels in the blood may be associated with atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) as well as an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clot formation, and maybe even Alzheimer's disease.

Homocysteine is broken down into methionine and cysteine (other amino acids) with the help of folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. Therefore, insufficient amounts of these vitamins can hamper the natural breakdown of homocysteine, causing it to accumulate in the blood.

However, it is noteworthy that so far there is no compelling data to support that lowering homocysteine in those with cardiovascular disease results in an improved outlook. I believe more research needs to be done to clarify the picture, and this new study adds a little more information to the knowledge base.

This study used the typical B vitamins (B6, B12, and folic acid) in a group of patients that had just experienced a heart attack. Two months of relatively high doses of B12 and folic acid, and moderate doses of B6, was found to be associated with significant reductions in serum total homocysteine and Lp(a) (a.k.a. lipoprotein (a), which is known as the "deadly" cholesterol).

The authors state, "These results indicated that total homocysteine and Lp(a) levels were possibly atherogenic risk factors independent of conventional risk factors. Since both total homocysteine and Lp(a) levels responded in a similar fashion, a common point of the metabolic and pathogenetic pathways of homocysteine and Lp(a) may be influenced by the vitamins supplementation."

However, treating the problem once you've got it is not the answer...and as I said, the data on this is sketchy at best. It's much better to prevent homocysteine levels from getting too high in the first place, so make sure you eat a healthy diet, and take at least a good quality multi-vitamin/mineral.

Source: Serum total homocysteine and lipoprotein (a) levels in acute myocardial infarction and their response to treatment with vitamins

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